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VA-82 Reunion, October 2010

Captions and Pictures by Kyle Kirby

Photo by Kyle Kirby
These are the plane captains that ventured to the Marauder celebration that we all enjoyed. It was an honor to have these hard working guys and their wives here. They were a great cast and a lot of fun to be around. I hope they had as much fun as we did!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Pilots Fred Heuber and Kenny Wayne Fields get reacquainted on Friday. Kenny has written the outstanding book The Rescue of Streetcar 304 that describes his shoot down and rescue on USS America's very first day in combat on 31 May 1968. It is a great book and it gives insight into these guys lives aboard ship and in combat. Also, the A-7 was brand new in 68 and there were a few glitches with the new aircraft. Kenny's wingman that day, Fred Lentz, had fuel transfer problems while heading back from Laos to the ship. He had to punch out of his A-7 and it was a very inauspicious start to combat operations for them in the Tonkin Gulf. They did very well after day 1. I really wanted to meet Fred Lentz at the reunion but he passed not long before the event. We remember him and all of our lost veterans at the Hickory Aviation Museum!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Ron Shirley in the cockpit of the A-7.

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Doug Bradt in the A-7 as wife Judi looks on.

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Doris Jones and Bobbye Thomas enjoy themselves on Friday evening. It was an honor to have them here at the reunion and dedication.

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Friday evening was the VA-82 meet and greet time. They provided barbeque and beverages of all kinds. It was a very informal and wonderful gathering.

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Walt spoke after I welcomed the Marauders officially to Hickory.

Photo by Kyle Kirby
My new pal Charlie Cook also addressed his colleagues at the dinner. He is a hoot!!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Next to speak was Rocket 22. My good friend Tom Brown. Tom carried his 35mm camera in the cockpit of his A-7 while in combat. After delivering weapons, he would always roll inverted and wait for the boom and snap away. He has some incredible photos. He actually won a reconnaissance award as best RA-7 pilot in the Navy. This was obviously unofficial as there was no such thing as a RA-7. His photos were significant and utilized as many times smoke obscured targets during a BDA run by RA-5Cs. It was great to have the PA system and hear these stories!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Bobbye Thomas also addressed the Marauder crowd. This lady is the real deal and our military wives are not to be underestimated!!! They are awesome as well!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Part of the light attack group here at the reunion. In all honesty, I had to pinch myself a few times to believe this was actually happening! there are no words to say how much respect I have for these incredible folks!!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Eric Jensen also shared some of his thoughts during the barbeque. Eric flew on the 1969-70 Westpac cruise with VA-82. We had a great time together. It is always wonderful to make new friends!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
It was great to hear from Jerry Walker at the event. This guy was part of the maintenance guys that keep em flying. Jerry Walker is Sierra Hotel!!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
1969-70 VA-82 Commanding Officer Gene Clemens also gave an emotional talk at the dinner. I was moved by all that spoke and want to thank the VA-82 alumni that made this happen. It was one of the great honors for me that I have ever experienced! What an incredible cast of great Americans we had here!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
I take a picture as Jim Malcolm poses next to the A-7. I had some great material to use for the dedication ceremony on Saturday. After getting Scotty Greiling's name on the aircraft, we had to hide it. Ironically, the wood we used came from John "Hondo" Johnson that flew this aircraft as well with VA-37 in 1972 in combat. Jim devised an ingenious way to unveil the name at the dedication. We wanted it to be like a Command Change Ceremony and it worked beautifully!! Bravo Zulu Jim.

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Linda Hill did a great job in getting this cake done for the reunion! It was perfect

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Doug Bradt and Eric Jensen on Saturday prior to the main event. We set up a small display of VA-82 memorabilia in the lobby and it turned out great. A lot of the Marauder cast came out for our Gathering of Eagles and met some of our local veterans. That makes me proud!!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Admiral Leighton "Sir Snuffy" Smith arrives at the museum. Here he greets Eric Jensen and Tom McClelland. Carter Refo and Ray Jones look on. Snuffy is one of the most legendary Naval Aviators ever and was a joy to meet. He lived up to the press that the Marauder's had promised. He was keynote speaker at the Saturday night banquet. WOW!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Our own Linda Hill presented Karen with this flag in a touching part of the dedication. I wept.

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Pretty amazing group of all-stars here. Tom McClelland, Shedd Webster, and Eric Jensen talk to Snuffy upon his arrival. I had to pinch myself again about this time!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Another wonderful moment in a weekend saturated with wonderful moments! Dotty and Walt Moser with Charlie and Carole Cook in front of Streetcar 313. The only words I have are we are so very appreciative of your magnificent service (all the Marauders) and it was an incredible privilege to share this extraordinary weekend with each of you!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
I only took a couple of photographs at the banquet. It was pretty awesome. Tom Brown was emcee and he always does a great job. There was a slide show on the screen behind while we ate that was fantastic!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
HAM President and Director Jeff Wofford told the fraternity that a bald eagle had been spotted after the dedication ceremony circling the A-7!! You really had to be there to appreciate this. I know Scotty Greiling was with us all on this weekend!

Photo by Kyle Kirby
Capt. Doug Bradt roasted Sir Snuffy before he delivered his speech. It was great!

Click here for Part 2
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